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Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast is a monthly program devoted to bringing you quality, engaging stories that explain how capitalism has changed over time. We interview historians and social and cultural critics about capitalism’s past, highlighting the political and economic changes that have created the present. Each episode gives voice to the people who have shaped capitalism – by making the rules or by breaking them, by creating economic structures or by resisting them.
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In this month's episode, co-host Jessica Levy and guest Cheryl Narumi Naruse examine popular narratives surrounding Singapore's "miraculous" journey from Third to First world nation, currently ranked third in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product per capita. The episode takes a particular look at the period leading up to and following the 19…
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One recent study found that 81% of businesses in the United States have zero employees. That is, they are run by sole proprietors, working for and by themselves, The ideal of self-employment has become dominant in our culture, too. More Americans than ever dream of becoming an entrepreneur, an independent owner, a founder. But for all of its preval…
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Most scholars would date the origins of neoliberalism to the 1970s, when a range of crises gave rise to new forms of market-oriented governance. But Brent Cebul, our guest on this month's episode, argues that liberalism’s sharp turn towards neoliberalism wasn’t so sharp after all. In fact, as early as the New Deal, liberals tried to realize their p…
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In 2022, roughly one in 10 suburban residents lived in poverty (9.6%), compared to about one in six in primary cities (16.2%), according to a recent study by the Brookings Institute. The issue of suburban poverty has garnered significant attention, prompting more than a bit of nostalgia for the good ole days of when suburbs were prosperous, living …
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Today, discussions of care are ubiquitous. From employer-programs promoting self-care to the $800 billion healthcare industry, care forms a central part of our lives and the economy. But, are the systems and structures currently in place to care serving those who need it the most? This month's episode, featuring historian and activist Premilla Nada…
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Are you a professional living and working in an English-speaking country? If so, this episode is for you. Teachers, doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers, lawyers, social workers, the list goes on, professionals play an important role in our society. This wasn't always the case. This episode explores the rise of the professional class in the Angl…
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An iced cold Coca-Cola. A cross-country flight on Delta to visit friends. A much-needed medication overnighted via Fed-Ex. Bulk toilet paper purchased at Wal-Mart. What do these items have in common? In today’s modern economy, each of these can be purchased from the comfort of the couch, frequently with a credit card pioneered by Bank of America. T…
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This month's episode gives a nod to one of the figures in our logo: the construction worker. Our guest, Mark Erlich has worked in the construction industry as a carpenter and union leader for a half century. In this episode, he shares his insights on the industry's past, present, and future, paying particular attention to the politics and material …
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In this month's episode, guest Chelsea Schields discusses oil refining and intimacy, illuminating the social ties and affective attachments engendered by oil in the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curaçao. Known today for their gorgeous beaches and sunny weather that attract tourists year-round, during the mid-twentieth century these islands were home t…
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When it was completed in 1914, the Panama Canal nearly halved the travel time between the U.S. West Coast and Europe and revolutionized trade and travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s construction, overseen by the U.S. government-Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC), has long been hailed as a marvel of American ingenuity. Less well-known …
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In this month's episode, Christy Thornton discusses the surprising influence of post-revolutionary Mexico on some of the twentieth century's most important international economic institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Triangulating between archives in Mexico, the United States, and Great Britain, Thornton traces…
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This month, we welcomed Jennifer Mittelstadt back to the show, joined by Mark Wilson, to discuss their new edited volume, The Military and the Market. Moving beyond familiar topics like defense spending, the volume takes an expansive approach to examining military-market relations in a wide range of contexts--from family business in the Civil War t…
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In this episode, historian Allan Lumba explores how the United States wielded monetary authority in the colonial Philippines, including the role of money as a tool for countering decolonization, entrenching racial and class hierarchies, and directing the profits of colonialism towards the U.S. and Wall Street, in particular, with long-lasting conse…
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This month’s episode takes listeners back in time to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time of significant labor unrest. At the time, employers, often with government support, went to great lengths to put down dissent, including employing violent tactics such as whippings, kidnappings, shootings, and imprisonment. Among those that helped to…
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This month’s episode picks up on a theme previously explored on the podcast: international finance. Drawing on a broad range of German, English, Japanese, and Chinese sources, Ghassan Moazzin traces the rise of foreign banking in China during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period that saw a dramatic increase in international trade and in…
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In this month's episode, Claire Dunning explains how and why non-profits came to play such an important role in U.S. cities after World War II. In doing so, she explores the emergence of non-profit neighborhoods amid various changes in urban policy, starting with urban renewal and continuing through the War on Poverty and the rise of community deve…
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In this episode, Mircea Raianu traces the rise of the Tata Group, one of India's largest and oldest companies, from its early days involved in cotton and opium trading to multinational conglomerate invested in everything from salt to software, and, notably, steel. Among the topics discussed, include Tata’s involvement with colonial and anti-colonia…
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This month's episode centers Samoa, including the Pacific islands comprising the present-day independent country of Samoa and American Samoa, examining capitalism, globalization, and coconut colonialism at the turn of the 20th century. In doing so, it pays close attention to the lives of workers, including plantation laborers, ethnographic edutaine…
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In 2020, George Floyd was killed by police outside a store in Minneapolis known as “the best place to buy menthols.” Of Black Americans who smoke, eighty-percent smoke menthol cigarettes. In this episode, Keith Wailoo explores the history of menthol cigarettes and their marketing to Black Americans. In doing so, he ties together the history of toba…
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This month's episode takes a deep dive into the history of work and automation in the post-World War II era. It traces the discourse around automation from its origins in the factory to its wide-ranging implications in political and social life. Countering automation's proponents, who prophesize that robots will soon replace human labor, Jason Resn…
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This month's episode focuses on a popular commodity, namely rubber. Despite consuming a large share of the world's rubber supply, the United States has long relied on the global market to meet American demand for rubber. During the early twentieth-century, this dependence on foreign rubber led the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to the West Afric…
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Indebtedness, like inequality, has become a ubiquitous condition in and beyond the United States. Yet few have probed American cities’ dependence on municipal debt. Focusing on San Francisco, this month's guest, Destin Jenkins, traces the evolving relationship between cities, bondholders, banks, and municipal debt from the Great Depression to the 1…
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It is no secret that the United States is facing a crisis with regards to higher education. In this month's episode, historian Elizabeth Tandy Shermer explains the long history that gave rise to the current situation in which many institutions are struggling financially, while students and their parents are often the ones left to pay the bill with …
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Building on and complicating recent scholarship on slavery and capitalism, Justene Hill Edwards takes listeners on a journey through the slaves' economy. From bustling urban marketplaces to back-country roads, she highlights the myriad ways enslaved people participated in South Carolina's economy from colonialism to the Civil War. In doing so, she …
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For many Americans, the question--What is a dollar worth?--may sound bizarre, if not redundant. Fluctuating international exchange rates, highly volatile crypto-currencies, counterfeit money, these are all things the average American hears about on the news, but rarely thinks about on a day-to-day basis. Even the most enthusiastic Bitcoin supporter…
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